The Marshall Johnson Collection: Lamb Handles, Knives, Utensils and Cookware – and Marshall Johnson!

Monday, May 20, 2019

This year, the cutlery company Cutco Corporation celebrates its seventieth anniversary. Cutco was founded in 1949 by ALCOA and Case Cutlery as ALCAS, a combination of the two company names.  ALCAS produced a new line of cutlery for Wear-Ever, a division of ALCOA, named Cutco, which comes from ALCOA’s Cooking Utensil Company.   Soon after its founding, ALCAS/Cutco hired Thomas Lamb to redesign his famous ergonomic “Wedge-lock” handle for use with their cutlery.  In 1972, ALCOA bought out Case Cutlery’s shares, and ALCAS changed its name to Cutco.  In 1982, the Cutco management bought the company from ALCOA., and it is now the Cutco Corporation. 

So, how does all of this relate to the Marshall Johnson Collection?  Johnson worked for the ALCOA Corporate Design Department from 1967 until 1971, when he was transferred to the Wear-Ever cookware division.  In 1972, Johnson was also asked to work with ALCAS/Cutco - in particular, with Thomas Lamb - to design a new style of an ergonomic handle for a line of Wear-Ever cookware.  Wear-Ever already had a line of cookware with the old-style Lamb handle but wanted to update the old handle design. The original handle was based on Lamb’s design for handles used on crutches for military veterans starting in the mid-1940s.

Some examples of the old-style Lamb handles in the Marshall Johnson Collection.


The Johnson Collection includes copies of drawings that Johnson produced with Lamb for the new style of handle.

Preliminary drawings for the new-style Lamb handles for cookware, designed by Lamb and drawn by Johnson, October 1972, with the title block enlarged. (The copies of the drawings are faded along the fold lines.)

Final revised drawings for the new-style Lamb handles, also designed by Lamb and drawn by Johnson, with the title block enlarged, October 1973.  It took a year to work out the final design.

The concept design drawings by Johnson for the cookware with the new handles.


The company never produced the cookware with the new-style handle but Johnson went on to work with the Cutco staff to produce cutlery and kitchen utensils with the new style of handle.  He also designed sheaths for hunting and fishing knives.  Examples of many of these handles and sheaths are also in the collection, as well as copies of Johnson’s design drawings and patents for the sheaths.

Examples of the new handle for cutlery (the clear handles were never produced).

Sheaths for knives that Johnson designed for Cutco.  Some of these are the original prototypes showing how the stitching should be done and the plastic insert that Johnson made himself.


Hagley also has an extensive Thomas Lamb Collection, in which there are many more examples of all of the handles he designed and the documentation for them:

Happy 70th Anniversary to Cutco Corporation from the Hagley Museum and Library!



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Gail Stanislow is a Project Archivist at Hagley Museum and Library.